CDC is at fault for skyrocketing STD rates says AHF

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Rainbow colors (the natural and man-made rainbow, including the color black, for remembering AIDS), in a Bauhaus rendering for B&H Infinity Photographic Society submission. Rainbow means Hope, that's why The Rainbow/Hope Principle. Photo and art by Alina Oswald.
Rainbow colors (the natural and man-made rainbow, including the color black, for remembering AIDS), in a Bauhaus rendering for B&H Infinity Photographic Society submission. Rainbow means Hope, that's why The Rainbow/Hope Principle. Photo and art by Alina Oswald.

In response to the October Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report “Reported STDs at Unprecedented High in the U.S.,” AIDS Healthcare Foundation has criticized the organization and called out the CDC’s own policies—chief among them, the CDC’s sanctioning of the widespread abandonment of the condom culture for STD and HIV prevention — as a primary catalyst for skyrocketing STD rates, particularly among young people.

According to an NPR article, “The number of people infected with three major sexually transmitted diseases is at an all-time high, according to a CDC report, “… the increase in reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis is hitting teenagers and young adults hardest.”

New York Magazine also reported, “… The majority of cases of gonorrhea and syphilis were among gay and bisexual men. The CDC noted the increases could be due in part to the erosion of STD-prevention systems: More than half of state and local STD programs have experienced budget cuts. But it’s also possible that improvements in the treatment and prevention of HIV have led people to believe they don’t need condoms.”

“Given the CDC’s shift away from promoting condom usage and cuts in STD prevention funding, it is no real surprise that STDs are skyrocketing around the country, particularly among young people and men who have sex with men,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein.  “Sadly, it also appears that individual and organizational complacency has set in regarding condoms, which remain the best way to prevent most STDs. We call for additional urgently needed funding for STD prevention and for the CDC to really step up and develop an innovative, aggressive national STD prevention campaign.”

In April of this year (observed as STD Awareness Month) and following announcements from domestic and international health agencies that revealed that rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) had continued to rise annually, particularly among young people and gay men, AHF sharply criticized the CDC for requesting far less prevention funding for its 2017 budget. AHF also asked CDC to develop a new national STD prevention campaign.  At the time, AHF noted that syphilis was hitting rates not seen since before the start of the HIV epidemic. In addition, the spread of drug-resistant strains of infections including gonorrhea and syphilis threatens the efficacy of medicines commonly used for treatment.

In April, AHF criticized the CDC for requesting far less prevention funding for its 2017 budget and asked CDC to develop a new national STD prevention campaign

The CDC requested less overall funding for 2017 for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and tuberculosis (TB) than it did for 2016. For STIs, the CDC’s funding request has remained stagnant, while the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Research funding request is $10 million lower than the previous year. While the CDC did request more funding for 2017 than the agency actually received in 2016, enacted funding has consistently fallen short of requested funding.

AHF: CDC should prioritize condom use, place STDs at forefront of national public health agenda

Regarding the abandonment of the condom culture in the US: advocates from AHF note that in just a one month period between December 2013 and January 2014 — and with little public review — the CDC changed its longstanding prevention wording regarding condom use from using the phrase “unprotected sex” to describe sex without a condom or some form of barrier protection to now using the phrase, “condomless sex,” — a move that may suggest to some that condomless sex is protected. A further indication of the erosion of the condom culture came in February of this year, when the CDC released a plan to prevent 185,000 new HIV infections—and failed to even mention condoms as a potential tool in that effort.

AHF’s Wellness Centers provide free testing for sexually transmitted diseases, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV. To find the nearest location for STD screening and treatment, visit http://www.freestdcheck.org.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation can be reached at www.aidshealth.org. Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and on Twitter: @aidshealthcare and Instagram: @aidshealthcare